The great strides in technology have done wonders for the organizers of fundraising events, simplifying many tasks. Some recent technology trends in the fundraising event industry are garnering lots of attention. However, online and mobile bidding auctions may not be as beneficial as they seem. Most of the companies that market online auctions and mobile bidding are backed by large investment and venture capitalist companies. They see charities and schools as a multi-billion dollar untapped market. Using fundraising event software or a computer to manage your fundraising event and process credit cards are great tools. Every event should use them. However, when it’s no longer a tool and actually becomes the focus of the fundraising event it can be an alarming situation.
(Read the blog article I wrote a few weeks ago detailing this same topic for additional information.)
Mobile bidding and online fundraisers take money away from your organization.
Fundraising auction websites and mobile bidding companies make money by taking yours away. They will do anything to sell you on why they think one of these options is the best way to run your fundraiser. They pay big money to seek out your events online. They also pay large sums to search engines like Google to be on the first page of your Google search hoping you will buy into their service. Many of the success stories they tout have been created by the online fundraising auction companies. Nonprofits and schools have come to figure out that when they use mobile bidding at a fundraising auction or do an online auction, it typically costs more than the increase in revenue. Charity auction events that don’t use those programs can come out ahead. Most organizations have realized that they are using online fundraisers or mobile bidding out of convenience rather than for increased revenue.
Online fundraisers take away your story.
Fundraising online not only takes money away from you, but also takes away your chance to promote your organization. The traditional fundraising event that includes a silent auction, a live auction, an impactful story, and paddle raiser provides an opportunity. It celebrates who you are and gives you a platform to share the message about what you’re trying to do to a willing audience. Don’t forget that when holding any fundraising event, you are putting on a commercial about who you are and what you’re about. You are NOT just asking for money but also inspiring people to give of their time and donate some of their talents. The reason countless organizations have hosted silent auctions (with paper and pencils) followed by a live auction for many years is simple. They don’t do it because they want to. They do it because it works!
Mobile bidding takes away from the social atmosphere of your fundraiser.
During a silent auction, you want your guests to be up and moving around, shopping at the silent auction, mingling, and learning about your organization. With mobile bidding, there is actually less shopping and more focus on phones or devices. Another problem with mobile bidding is that it is easy to be distracted away from the phone or device. Ever been in a grocery store parking lot and heard an alarm go off on a car? No one pays attention. This can also be true for the alerts to donors asking them to bid on items. Most charity events are held in dimly lit rooms with lots of background noise. Attendees are laughing, talking, eating, and drinking with their friends. They can simply ignore the buzzing on the mobile phone notifying them that they have been outbid. Sometimes they leave the phone in a suit jacket pocket or purse as they are mingling with friends.
Online fundraisers and mobile bidding will have technical problems.
There can be major problems when wireless service, the internet, or a website has a failure. You are at the mercy of technology and anyone who owns a smart phone or computer can tell you, they DO fail. A common problem is that not everyone has great coverage inside many of these large hotel ballrooms. For example, lets assume your fundraising event decides to try mobile bidding rather than paper at your event. Half of your guests use AT&T as the carrier and 30 percent use Verizon, followed by T-Mobile and other carriers. If those who use Verizon as a carrier have a poor connection, you have lost a third of the potential bidders in the room.
Online fundraisers and mobile bidding can be complicated.
Doing online fundraisers or using mobile bidding will require your volunteers and your guests to learn how to use the software. No matter how easy they claim it will be, there will be a learning curve. Each and every online software has its own unique way of taking your bid. That will require everyone bidding at your fundraiser to learn how to use the software. At past events, I have seen people become frustrated or annoyed by being forced to learn yet a new way of trying to give away their money. When someone wants to donate to you, you don’t want them to have trouble trying to do it. A strong percentage of your donors may not be comfortable with or willing to use this kind of technology. Why lose that percentage of your revenue?
The verdict is in. Most charities that tried online auctions or mobile bidding software realized that it costs more than any increase in revenue. Organizations have figured out that they are using these options more for convenience rather than increased revenue. Ask yourself why you are giving away thousands of dollars of your charity’s money for something that didn’t even exist a decade ago? Is your fundraising really that bad and in need of help? If so, what new ideas can you learn from fundraising consultants, a benefit auctioneer, or other local charity events? Free silent auction and fundraising templates, tips from experienced organizations, and articles are available online. Are there better ways of running your fundraising campaign than using online auctions and mobile bidding software? Even if your event is working you may have an online or mobile bidding software salesman bugging you. He has learned about your event and is trying to sell you mobile bidding. My answer would be, “If it isn’t broke, why pay to fix it?”